Rewind the clock back 30 years and 1992 found thrash metal running out of steam. Death metal was arguably ruling the roost and grunge (boo!) was playing havoc with thrash metal’s prior dominance.
However, the genre wasn’t dead – it was just in a state of flux – and quality thrash was still being released, it was just a little harder to seek out. Here’s OUR pick of the 10 greatest thrash metal albums turning 30 years old in 2022…..
Exhorder – The Law [USA]
Exhorder‘s follow-up to their blistering debut Slaughter In The Vatican found the band harnessing grooves like no other band on earth (and we still ain’t gonna go into the Panteracomparisons, right!) and delivering a sophomore effort that arguably bettered its predecessor.
Quite simply, you cannot fuck with the likes of “Unforgiven”, “I Am The Cross” and “Un-Born Again”, as Exhorder’s groove-heavy thrash set about removing your spleen via your asshole.
Ferocious and unpredictable, Exhorder fully utilised their unique gut-punch grittiness to drive home serrated grooves at a mostly ferocious pace. Mostly? By its very nature, Exhorder’s stunning cover of Sabbath’s “Into The Void” momentarily slowed things down but Vinne LaBella and the boys still found time to ‘crunch’ it up and make it their own!
With Kyle Thomas sounding as furiously feral and as expressive as ever – spitting out a series of vignettes over more caustic riffs than should be humanly possible – for a short while there, Exhorder were the most exciting band on earth.
Assorted Heap – Mindwaves [Germany]
Assorted Heap‘s second album is a minor masterpiece. Pure and simple.
Hitting the prog ramp at high speed, Assorted Heap finessed their already impressive sound (1991’s far more aggressive The Experience Of Horror is also well worth checking out) and delivered an unsung classic of progressive thrash; the kind of calling card that should have seen them attain more than mere ‘cult’ status.
Transcending genre trappings with ease, Assorted Heap mirrored the wholesale changes and ‘anything is possible’ mentality of Sarcofago circa The Laws Of Scourge, ultimately delivering an album that lived and died by its palpable atmosphere and unique, often ornate, clarity of sound.
A distinctive moment in thrash.
Entropy – Ashen Existence [Canada]
A progressive and technical thrash colossus, Entropy’s debut album, Ashen Existence, may not be as well-known as it should be but that just means that when you do discover it, you’re in for one hell of a welcome surprise!
This was ambitious thrash, buoyed by technicality and hell-bent on challenging the notion of what thrash could be. With Ger Schreinert’s vocals swiftly alternating between death growls and raspy screams and wails, Entropy’s genius lay in their ability to hop between sub-genres at will, with changes in tempo and time signatures throwing endless curveballs throughout each and every, lengthy, track.
While, at times, Ashen Existence may sound like Entropy crammed 3 albums of material into the one song (never mind the one album!) – and the sheer number of ideas thrown around with wild abandon can often be overwhelming – if you dig a little deeper it’s abundantly clear that Ashen Existence was the Canadian answer to Dark Angel’s Time Does Not Heal…..and praise doesn’t really get any loftier than that!
Skyclad – A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol [UK]
Before they went 100% folk, Skyclad followed up their outstanding debut The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth with another slab of unique UK thrash. Continuing and refining the uniquely pagan sound Sabbat pioneered on their groundbreaking albums History Of A Time To Come and Dreamweaver, this may be a love it or hate it record for thrash fans but those with an adventurous spirit -and a penchant for bands who gleefully experimented with thrash’s rigid rules – will hear Skyclad adapting the formula to create something idiosyncratic and distinctly British.
The addition of full-time fiddler Fritha Jenkins (we simply refer to the act of playing the fiddle of course) bolstered Skyclad’s sound that was still built around Martin Walkyier’s distinctive vocal delivery and a multiude of rapid-fire thrash riffs. Take the aforementioned irresistibly thrashy “Salt On The Earth (Another Man’s Poison)” as the perfect example of thrash existing in a folk metal framework; few could pull off such a disparate melding of styles but Skyclad, particularly on A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol, mastered the craft.
Interestingly, Skyclad’s The Wayward Sons Of Mother Earth and A Burnt Offering For The Bone Idol remain the perfect companion pieces to Sabbat’s two Walkyier fronted classics; an exquisite quadruplet of frighteningly original albums which deserve arrant adulation.
Testament – The Ritual [USA]
Testament’s last gasp attempt at cracking the mainstream was the equal of anything being released by Metallica, Megadeth etc at the time. With Chuck Billy once again proving his versaitlity as a vocalist, Alex Skolnick laying down his claim as the finest guitarist of his generation and the band, as a whole, proving they could deliver mature thrash that didn’t skimp on power and grit, The Ritual really should have been the album to send Testament stratospheric.
Why it failed to do so is one of life’s cruelest twists of fate because The Ritual had everything. Highly melodic and filled with sublime songrwriting, the aggression of old may have been subdued….but Testament’s overwhelming talent remained – just give “Return to Serenity” a spin and try denying that it’s one of the finest thrash ballads ever penned.
Fact: Alongside Death Angel’s Act III, Testament’s The Ritual was the finest mainstream thrash album of the 90’s. Disagree? Tell someone who cares.